Mitt Romney and Richard Grenell made an unlikely pair. Romney is the candidate who went out of his way to attack the LGBT community during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and Grenell is an openly gay man who supports marriage equality.
Lest we forget, this is the same Romney who signed the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) pledge calling for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He is the candidate who repudiated all his earlier comments on LGBT rights and was embarrassed when reminded that in 1994 he pledged to be better on gay rights than Sen. Ted Kennedy. Clearly that was what he thought was called for in his losing Senate campaign against Kennedy. Romney has a penchant for saying what he thinks a particular electorate wants to hear so you are never sure where he actually stands on an issue at any time.
Grenell was hired during the Bush administration and was a spokesperson for U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. While many in the LGBT community may not agree with Grenell’s foreign policy views, I am told he is an incredibly smart guy and a really good spokesperson for the issues he believes in. His problem was that he believed in a number of issues that his new boss Mitt Romney didn’t. The major one being that as a gay man he felt he should have all the civil and human rights of every other citizen. He also had a habit of tweeting about some unimportant things, like Callista Gingrich and Hillary Clinton’s personal appearance, something many people, including a lot of gay men, seem to think they have an obligation to do.
We quickly found out whom the Romney campaign is beholden to. Romney spent years cozying up to the far right and there was no way they were going to let him get away with hiring this out-front gay guy who had the audacity to be not only gay but want his rights too. The Romney campaign thought the way to handle the issue was to keep Grenell in the closet. Let him stay a spokesperson without the right to speak. Try to get credit with the LGBT community for hiring him but keep him hidden so the homophobes supporting the campaign would forget about him.
This all backfired on poor Mitt because it seems Grenell has too much class to allow that to happen. He just walked away with his head held high. Not a great development for a presidential campaign trying to get on its feet. More bad news for Romney came in last week’s poll numbers in Virginia that show Obama eight points up in a state that not long ago elected a Tea Party activist attorney general and a far right governor.
There is a lot of time until November and I am sure the polls will go up and down and there will be mistakes made, and spinning in both the Democratic and Republican campaigns. But one thing is clear and that is that Mitt Romney won’t be able to pretend his campaign is like the Etch-a-Sketch one of his top advisers hoped for and he won’t be able to clear away all his primary rhetoric. His attacks on the LGBT community, the Latino community and women will haunt him throughout the campaign. No one will let him get away with saying it was all just to win a primary and start over. The evangelicals and Tea Party activists won’t let him get away with that and surely the Democrats shouldn’t.
Gingrich and Santorum have already called him a liar, along with a lot of other choice things. To Romney’s detriment and President Obama’s benefit they conveniently forgot Ronald Reagan’s admonition to “not speak ill of fellow Republicans.” I assume they thought Romney was so bad they couldn’t help themselves.
Grenell is but the first of those who will be run out of the Republican Party during this campaign by those far right supporters now in control. Every time Romney gives in to another demand from them he will lose another group of potential voters. Romney appears to be missing a core set of beliefs that include standing up for the separation of church and state; the human and civil rights of all individuals; and the right of free speech.